Stage Notes Connecticut Theater News & Reviews

Hartford Stage Extends 'Anastasia'; Long Wharf Announces 2016-17 Season

Before the new musical "Anastasia" even opens, Hartford Stage has announced there will be extended shows

Even before the new musical "Anastasia" opens May 12, Hartford Stage has announced there will be eight more opportunities to see it — the run has been extended through June 19 due to popular demand, with newly added performances on June 12, 14, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m., June 17 at 8 p.m., June 18 at 2 and 8 p.m. and June 19 at 2 p.m.

After that, there still will be more chances to see the show, because it will move to New York City. It was widely presumed that "Anastasia" (created by the "Ragtime" team of Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, and directed by Darko Tresnjak) was Broadway-bound, but now it's official — though still vague. Stage Entertainment and Tom Kirdahy, who are producing the show, said "Anastasia" will be at one of the 17 Broadway theaters operated by the Shubert Organization sometime during the 2016-17 season.

Beckett, Gopnik, Diamond And More At Long Wharf

The Long Wharf Theatre has announced its 2016-17 season, which includes Brian Dennehy doing his second Beckett play at the theater, the return of playwright Lydia Diamond, an ever-timely big business story that was an off-Broadway hit 25 years ago, and the world premiere of a musical that Long Wharf has had in the works for years. Oh, and something by Steve Martin, but you already knew that.

The season opens with the previously announced world premiere of the Steve Martin comedy "Meteor Shower," Sept. 28 through Oct. 23. The show, which observes the "wildly unexpected" behavior of two couples at a dinner party, is a co-production with the Old Globe theater in San Diego.

"Other People's Money" runs Nov. 23 through Dec. 18. The 1989 off-Broadway hit by Jerry Stern blends drama, romance and all the gory details of a corporate takeover.

The classic Samuel Beckett power-struggle "Endgame," Jan. 4 through Feb. 5, 2017, in the Long Wharf's smaller Stage II space, stars Dennehy (who did "Krapp's Last Tape" at Stage II in 2011) and John Douglas Thompson (who was at Stage II in the world premiere of Terry Teachout's "Satchmo at the Waldorf" in 2012).

The world premiere of "Napoli, Brooklyn" by Meghan Kennedy, a co-production with New York's Roundabout Theatre Company, will run Feb. 15 through March 12, 2017. The drama of "sisterhood, freedom and forgiveness" (according to a press release) in set in 1960 Brooklyn.

"Smart People," March 15 through April 9, 2017, had a New York run earlier this year. It centers on four people at (or recently at) Harvard University in 2008, reacting to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. The play is by Lydia Diamond, whose adaptation of Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" was seen at both the Long Wharf and Hartford Stage in 2008.

The season ends with the world premiere of the musical "Table," with book and lyrics by New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik and music by David Shire ("Big," "Starting Here Starting Now"). It's about a "tiny family restaurant" in New York's Union Square. Shire performed a song from the show at a Long Wharf gala back in 2011. Gopnik will be in New Haven this summer speaking at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas.

Long Wharf Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein is directing four of the shows. The directors for "Other People's Money" and "Smart People" have not been announced yet. The Long Wharf is currently without an associate artistic director, following the departure of Eric Ting last year to run the California Shakespeare Theater last year.

For more info, the Long Wharf website is longwharf.org.

R.I.P. Anne Jackson

Anne Jackson died on April 12, less than a year after the death of her husband and frequent co-star Eli Wallach. Among the many shows the couple did at the Westport Country Playhouse were "The Glass Menagerie" in 1959, "House of Blue Leaves" in 1976, "Absent Friends" in 1977 and their New York hit "Twice Around the Park" in 1983.

Jackson's only Westport show without Wallach was James Prideaux's "Slightly Delayed" in 1979. Jackson appeared in "The Cherry Orchard" at Hartford Stage in 1974. She was in the original Broadway productions of Tennessee Williams' "Summer and Smoke," the iconic '60s comedy "Luv" and the Ionesco classic "Rhinoceros." I met Jackson and Wallach when they were well into their 70s, appearing in Anne Meara's "Down the Garden Paths" at the Long Wharf Theatre in 2000. I've seldom seen anyone so comfortable sitting around a theater. Our interview felt like it was taking place in their living room rather than the Long Wharf lobby.

Setting 'Lewiston' Alight

Those fresh fireworks in Samuel D. Hunter's new play, "Lewiston," at Long Wharf flare up — and fizzle out — so vividly that they virtually become another character in the play, sparking some hot metaphors in this drama of feisty family encounters and new beginnings.

Many theaters (especially in Connecticut, where fire safety laws are famously strict) might have settled for projections or lighting effects, but "Lewiston" director Eric Ting insisted on real fireworks. Local pyrotechnician Phil Gauvin of Atlas PyroVision was hired by the New Mexico firm Stage Effects Engineering to oversee the job. Gauvin describes his vocation thus: "I blow things up. I've been doing it 35 years." His work is regularly seen in the movies, on TV, in Times Square on New Year's Eve and in casinos. Theater-wise, he's exploded stuff for "Hedda Gabler," "Carousel" and the recent Oakdale engagement of "The Illusionists." For "Lewiston," which is set at a fireworks stand on an Idaho roadside, Gauvin was able to use "commercially made stage pyrotechnics, designed for our specifications." That includes the sputtering ones that he says are "made to fail, to look like they're wimpy."

Wesleyan Connection To 'Hamilton'

"Hamilton" won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for drama. There might have been a revolt if it hadn't. The show was, of course, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who worked on his first Broadway show, "In the Heights," while he was a student at Wesleyan a decade and a half ago. (The "In the Heights" tour played Hartford's The Bushnell in 2010 and New Haven's Shubert in 2012.) Miranda delivered the Wesleyan commencement address last year.

The runners-up for the Pulitzer were Branden Jacobs-Jenkins ("Gloria"), whose play "War" was at the Yale Rep in December of 2014, and Stephen Karam ("The Humans"), who will be the playwright in residence at the O'Neill Theater Center this summer.

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